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Taking Back Christmas Day From Busyness

The Dilemma: A Too-Busy Christmas Day

You’re riding in the car on your way to the third Christmas celebration in one day. Your husband stopped talking a few hours ago, your child still doesn’t understand why she can’t play with her toys yet, and you are considering banning any and all Christmas festivities in the future. You think back to earlier in the day: everyone seemed happy, presents were opened, breakfast was enjoyed, and you wonder why the day can’t just be simple. Why does it have to be so stressful? Sure, your belly is full, and you love seeing quirky Aunt Mildred, but something’s got to give. All of this hustle in one day is way too much.

Sound familiar? You’re not alone.

I love Christmas! I’m the person who starts listening to Christmas music in October (don’t judge me), and I get our tree up the week before Thanksgiving. But that was exactly how Christmas played out for me for the first few years of my marriage. I found myself utterly exhausted as we tried to say yes to as many celebrations as possible. Then we added kids into the equation, which meant that things got really crazy...

...and I got really crabby.

The Solution: Inspiration from a Christmas Day "Rule-Breaker"

One year I noticed that my Aunt Carol and her family didn’t attend many of the “family” Christmas celebrations. I also noticed that, unlike me, she tended to look refreshed after the holiday season. I decided to ask her about it.

“What’s your secret?”

She smiled. “It’s not a secret. Rob and I just decided a while back that we needed to honor our own family--start our own traditions. We thought of some things that would make us relaxed, joyful and happy, and we did those things instead of going from place to place.”

“Didn’t that make everyone upset?”

“Not really.” Carol shrugged. “We’ve invited other people to take part in our traditions if they want. We don’t exclude anyone, but we also don’t feel the need to go everywhere.”

“Huh. So…what do you do?” I asked, trying to wrap my brain around the idea of starting your own traditions. As silly as it sounds, I’d never given thought to it before. I grew up going to everything, and never considered that we didn’t have to.

“Rob and I give our kids Christmas Eve pajamas to sleep in that night. We spend the evening together, then have a big breakfast in the morning, open presents, and go see a movie.”

That sounded amazing to me.

How We Took Christmas Day Back From Busyness

I returned home and talked with my husband about it. We made a list of things that were important to us--things we really wanted out of Christmas Day. We settled on sleeping in (as much as possible with two young boys who can’t wait to open their presents), staying in our pajamas for most of the day, watching movies, and eating a big breakfast and dinner. When we were honest with ourselves, we realized that all the celebrations in one day wasn’t bringing us peace. Though we wanted to connect with family, real connection wasn’t happening because we were too stressed about getting to the next place on time.

The Results: Our New Christmas Day

The following year we let our families know about our new plan that included everything on our list. We invited them to come and join us, but said that we really didn’t want to make the day stressful. Then the strangest thing happened: not only did our extended family accept it, they supported and encouraged us. My parents and my in-laws moved their family celebrations to other days so we could still attend each one and not have to rush from one to the other, and they really did come over to our house to celebrate with us as well.

My boys opened their presents and got to play instead of leaving them behind to go from place to place. My husband was actually smiling at the end of the day, and we went to bed feeling joyful and rested.

We took back our Christmas, making it a special time rather than a stressful one, and I’m so glad we did.

Your turn: What would you include on your list of the prefect Christmas Day?

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